The week-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Washington culminated in a speech by President Obama this Wednesday.
“[King’s] words belong to the ages, possessing a power and prophecy unmatched in our time,” Obama said. “We rightly and best remember Dr. King’s soaring oratory that day, how he gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions.”
NBC News reported after the address:
Pointing to laws, social change, and himself as an example of how far the nation has come since King’s address, Obama was quick to highlight economic disparities between whites and blacks as proof that King’s dream hasn’t been fully realized.
Obama’s speech was also noticably heavy on the words “health care”:
We’d be told that growing inequality was the price for a growing economy, a measure of the free market — that greed was good and compassion ineffective, and those without jobs or health care had only themselves to blame.
Even as corporate profits soar, even as the pay of a fortunate few explodes, inequality has steadily risen over the decades. Upward mobility has become harder. In too many communities across this country in cities and suburbs and rural hamlets, the shadow of poverty casts a pall over our youth, their lives a fortress of substandard schools and diminished prospects, inadequate health care and perennial violence.
According to a Pew Research Center poll, less than half of Americans, and less than one third of African Americans, believe “substantial” progress has been made with regards to racial equality since King’s speech. Nevertheless, African-American voter turnout has surpassed expectations, and high school completion and life expectancy are also significantly higher.
King spoke 50 years ago of “arising from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.” It is apparent that we have not eradicated racial injustice, but it is also true that the Obama administration has not advanced race relations in this country.
We still have the minimum wage, a policy that disproportionally keeps African Americans out of work. And school choice is not yet a reality. Public schools, attended disproportionately by minorities, have fallen far behind private and charter options. School choice in the form of a voucher system would alleviate this discrepancy. And Obamacare—the unaffordable care act—will weigh on the middle class like a tax while the poor free-ride and Obama’s rich crony friends get exemptions.
All in all, around 20,000 people gathered on the rainy mall to commemorate King’s momentous “I have a dream” speech. Former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Jamie Foxx, and Oprah Winfrey also spoke.
Martin Luther King valued peace, freedom, and equality. The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom truly was “the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” Watch the march and his famous 1963 speech or read the text from the National Archives.